Rekindling a Burned Out Life

by Shonali Burke on November 12, 2010

campfire buddies
Remember when a simple jolt of caffeine or a little cocoa du jour were enough to snap you back to life?

Combos of the two were delightfully invigorating. What do you do, though, when your chocolate binge or triple espresso or monstrously bullish beverage are falling far short of five hours of energy? Start an I.V.? Yes,…I mean, Yikes!

You’re probably under enough stress already; the aforementioned “medication” may just lead from metaphor to cardiac floor… in your local hospital.

Stop, take a breath, and give a little thought to what’s actually going on inside you.

Stress, if it doesn’t kill you, leads to burnout.

How do you know if you’re there? When those familiar feelings of post-lunch lethargy are no longer preceded by lunch, you’re probably there. When simply saying the phrase, “leadership challenges” evokes a sigh, you’re probably there.

Energy is even more significant than time. Energy is what makes time more valuable. In fact, energy management determines successful time management.

Time is a constant; energy is a manageable, renewable resource. What’s burning your energy and what refuels it? Your answers will influence your strategy for energy management within the constraints of time.

So how do you integrate the concept of energy management with your everyday, “20 things on your top 10 must do list” life? Consider this: every thought, feeling and action expends or restores energy.

From thought to action

Since your thoughts greatly determine your feelings, start with thoughts. Beyond all the affirmation exercises, choose thoughts that are factually true and focus on reasonably possible, positive outcomes.

For example: instead of, “We’ve cut everything we can, barely managed to survive the economic down-turn and now we’re not sure what to do next”


“We’ve discovered and eliminated hidden waste, simplified our financial picture, maximized our efficiency and created a “lean, mean fighting machine.”

The feeling that follows can’t help but be more positive.

Introducing alignment

High performing leaders are fully engaged: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This doesn’t happen by accident. To a large degree, it happens through alignment.

When you can align what you choose to do with how you want to feel and what you choose to think with your essential beliefs, you introduce alignment.

When you create an environment that enables the people you lead to do the same, you ignite brilliance.

So…where do you start?

Leadership happens one conversation at a time.

Slow down and ask better questions.  Focus on thought-provoking questions over reports. In meeting prep, devote at least five minutes to think of three to five questions that will lead to a more productive, more thought-provoking meeting.

These five minutes will save you hours down the road.

Create internal alignment.

Step back and ask yourself: What am I resisting? What am I judging? What am I attached to? Answer these three questions and you’ll gain clarity, insight and a foundation for momentum.

Get more sleep, take a hike, improve one diet choice or simply change environments.

You may be dealing with sleep deprivation due to travel, or perhaps you’re confined to a board room, or stuck with certain food options in the cafeteria, but you can tweak something.

Take a stretch break, buy a piece of fruit instead of chips, or plan to leave the office earlier just one day a week to catch up on sleep and/or give yourself some much needed alone time to refuel.

Burnout, after all, is what you get when all the energy you used to have is burned up. Create ways to refuel, reconsider, reallocate, and refocus.

Value energy management with the same level of regard others reserve for time. You’ll ultimately pass your competitors and be energized in the process.

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Image: Marj Kibby via Flickr, Creative Commons

AmyK Hutchens, Founder and Intelligence Activist, AmyK Inc., is a speaker, trainer and business strategist. She is best known for helping business leaders capitalize on how the brain and human perception filters work to help them be more effective in business and their personal lives. Talk to AmyK on Twitter.

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